Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s decision to sign the export permits for an arms deal with Saudi Arabia for light-armoured vehicles, saying that the issue is a “matter of principle,” and Canada must “respect its contracts.”

Speaking at an event in London, Ont. on Thursday, Trudeau said that Canada’s “word needs to mean something in the international community.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion came under fire this week for quietly approving the export of $11-billion worth of LAV3s – the bulk of the nearly $15-billion deal with Saudi Arabia.

Dion’s approval called into question the Liberals’ longstanding claim that they were unable to cancel a deal that was already approved by the previous Conservative government.

The Liberals have been strongly criticized for not cancelling the deal, on account of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, religious minorities, activists, and prisoners.

According to documents released by The Canadian Press, government officials advised Dion that they were satisfied the Saudis would not use the vehicles against their own citizens.

On Thursday, Trudeau said that it’s important countries know that, after signing a contract, a change in government “isn’t going to lead to that contract being ripped up.”

Dion said earlier this week, that if at any time the government receives credible information that Saudi Arabia is violating the terms of LAV3 deal, he will revoke the export permits.